INTERVIEW: Bastille (Dan Smith) – 08/03/2013 @ Norwich Waterfront

Having last spoken to Dan Smith of Bastille back in May 2012, it’s no secret how far they’ve come in such a relatively short space of time…

With his debut album released only four days prior to the interview, we met once again with the man himself for a bit of a much needed catch-up; what propelled Bastille so far seemingly overnight? And why don’t Pizza Hut do buffets in the evening? All shall be revealed…

 Mark Wood: Hey Dan! We’ve chosen to come and see you over Foals tonight…

Dan Smith: Wow, are you sure?!

MW: So no pressure or anything!

DS: I’m scared you’ve made the wrong decision!

MW: I called Yannis and told him I had better things to do…

Becky Excell: Welcome back to Norwich, we know you came here for your Triangle Tour a while ago now; do you have fond memories of Norwich and the whole experience?

DS: The whole experience was really fun. It was really different to anything we had ever done before, especially because our set up is quite full on, there’s a lot happening in it. So to do such an exposed, stripped back, completely acoustic gig, it was a really interesting way for us to do a gig. It was really nice, we were really blown away that people came!

But yeah it was cool. The Triangle Tour consisted of the one here in Norwich, under a bridge. The one in Bristol was looking out over the suspension bridge. And then there was one we did at a bandstand in a park in Southampton. They were all really fun, we kind of had the intention to do a lot more gigs like that but we just haven’t had to time.

BE: You’ve just got too big!

DS: No, not at all!

MW:  So your popularity has increased ridiculously since we last spoke to you at The Great Escape Festival 2012, we just wanted to know whether you could narrow your success down to one particular event that really propelled you or was it just loads of separate little things?

DS: I feel like for us quite a turning point was our experience at Reading Festival; our gig there, we were completely blown away by how many people came and how many people knew the music. I think that was the first time we thought “Shit, people have heard of us”. And then straight after we came off stage we played Bad Blood on BBC3, it was our first ever live TV thing and I feel like that for us was really helpful. Exposure from that was not massive, but much bigger than anything we had done before. But also the whole BBC coverage stuff made some people at the BBC take note of us. Greg James has been massively supportive. The whole of Radio 1 has been incredible, I think that kind of opportunity to play next to Greg James and for him to hear us first hand, he must hear so many records all the time, we didn’t really think about it at the time but, in hindsight, that opportunity was amazing. He’s (Greg James) been so supportive, he made ‘Pompeii’ his record of the week, and ‘Flaws’.

BE: Your album is ‘album of the week’ for Huw Stephens as well this week.

DS: Yeah I know, its mental right! But yeah, not in a self pitying way but we haven’t received a huge amount of support from a huge amount of people. Greg and Huw have supported us when a lot of other people haven’t cared or supported at all. We are hugely grateful for that, and hopefully its paying off.

BE: I saw you played in the Live Lounge as well, I watched it online…

DS: I didn’t realise it was going to be filmed and then there were five cameras all around the room! That was really fun, it was weird doing it though, I’ve listened to Live Lounges on the radio for ages, so to do it ourselves felt weird. Every time we do stuff like that we always feel a bit of a joke, so whenever we do ‘proper things’ we always just feel like competition winners! It was really scary the live lounge, probably one of the scariest things we have done.

BE: You’ve always come across as really modest about all the music you have done, are you actually now coming to terms with the fact that you are so big, or is it still fairly alien to you?

DS: It is massively alien to me, there is like tangible things that are different that make our lives a bit easier, like being to tour with a tour bus for the first time – it’s such a massive novelty, it feels like we are on summer camp! Having someone to do our monitors, sound and having a tour manager… just having people to help us out. It’s nice as the team expands that we have such an awesome group of people, we have so much fun together, we are so lucky. So, that for us is the most tangible step up; that and obviously more people coming to our gigs and knowing the songs. We are slightly in a bit of a bubble where we just get on with stuff so it’s sometimes hard to appreciate where we are at. But stuff like the single and album selling as much as they have… it’s just so weird, those kinds of numbers are incomprehensible – I don’t know what to do with that kind of information!

MW: You sold out two dates at Shepherds Bush as well…

DS: I’ll believe it when I see it.

MW: So obviously your album came out this week, are you personally pleased with it now that it has fully been released to the world?

DS: Yeah, I think so. I will always have doubts in the back of my mind about whether different songs should have been on it. But I think it feels like I made the right decision. I really love the cover of it as well!

BE: Yeah you see it everywhere at the moment, so many adverts at underground stations!

DS: I know, I get off the tube sometimes and the posters are right in my face.

MW: Have you had people come up to you more now?

DS: No, not at all.

MW: I guess it (the album cover) is just the back of your head.

DS: It is weird though, I was on the tube with my friend the other day and we saw the poster and she went mental!

BE: The album was supposed to out at end of last year, or at least you were hoping it would be. Was there any reason for the delay in its release?

DS:  Yeah, the whole machine of getting an album out is much bigger, laborious process than I initially expected. I think it was because at the time I thought that the songs had been written and so I just thought you just finish it and put it out. But I think it was right to wait a bit. When we found out it was being put out in March, I was a bit frustrated but then we just got on with it. Up until now we have almost been liking that it hasn’t been out.

BE: I guess you have got so much exposure prior to its release.

DS: Yeah I think everything we did up until a couple of weeks ago was all the better for not having the album out. For instance, this tour sold out quite a long time before the album came out and I’m aware, not in a smug way, but that is quite unusual for a tour like this. At the same time though, the reception to the album has been so great, I feel like we should have put it out ages ago! It is quite a nice feeling as well now that the album is out, the extended versions and all the EPs that every single song I have ever made for Bastille is out there.

BE: It must feel really good…

DS: Yeah it really does, from when I spoke to you last year, so much stuff back then was being worked on and we were lucky enough to have a group of people who really liked our music and who definitely wanted to hear more, it felt weird holding stuff back for such a long time.

MW: We noticed that on tracks such as ‘Laura Palmer’ on the actual album, there are additional strings on it that were not on the previous version, was it difficult to add them to something that was previously considered finished?

DS: When I put out the ‘Laura Palmer’ EP I wasn’t really happy with any of the songs on it, it was weird, we really wanted to release something after ‘Flaws’ and ‘Icarus’ and I had those songs and they were all basically demos. I fretted about which songs to put out, we were trying to do quite different things. Like, ‘Get Home’ and ‘Things We Lost in the Fire’ are quite far from each other, as are ‘Overjoyed’ and ‘Laura Palmer’. So at the time I was just like “Fuck it, I want to put four of them out”. I wanted to give people an idea of what we were about, what our album would do but as an EP.  But yeah, at the same time I was never happy with that recording of ‘Laura Palmer’, ‘Overjoyed’ hasn’t changed and ‘Get Home’ hasn’t a huge amount, but ‘Things We Lost in the Fire’ and ‘Laura Palmer’ never sat with me that well. They were a lot more synthetic than how I wanted them to be, we just hadn’t had the time to work into them. But those two I am happy with them now, I just wanted them to feel a bit more organic, they were just a bit too electronic. So it was nice to add a bit more real sound, I’m obsessed with strings as well. There were some really quiet strings in the chorus of ‘Laura Palmer’ already so it was nice to just bring them out a bit. Hopefully I made it something different from what it was, so now it’s a big, epic pop song, whereas before it could have fitted under the electro tag that some people give us which I don’t particularly like.

MW: I thought it was really good how they just fit in with the track almost unchanged.

DS: We did re-record loads of stuff, but I was aware that people had already heard the tracks and liked them so I didn’t want to gut it and start again. One of my biggest worries was that because so much of our music was out there I was really worried that people would be disappointed with the album as there weren’t that many new songs, which is why we did the extended version which was basically for all the people who liked us already. I really just wanted to do justice to ‘Laura Palmer’, so for someone who had heard it a thousand times before to have something new that was potentially exciting for them to hear. I wanted to make it so people wouldn’t want to skip through half the album because they’d heard those tracks so many times already. Yeah, ‘Bad Blood’, ‘Flaws’ and ‘Overjoyed’ haven’t really changed but the other ones I really wanted to work on and improve.

Sorry that was a really long answer!

BE: Onto something completely different now then! Next week you are going to SXSW and apart from actually playing to a potentially new audience, have you got any other plans whilst you’re over there? So many bands seem to hit the states and start writing new music…

DS: I don’t know, we will see. We are going to be shooting a new music video whilst we are over there, on Friday, so it’s going to be a pretty busy week. I just really want to see a load of bands if we get time, the line up is amazing and it will be really fun to see a load of bands we have heard about but haven’t had the chance to see live yet. And just I guess, we haven’t been to Austin before, so just hang out and eat loads of food. I’m so excited, people I know have gone for years, and I’ve never been before, so I just feel so lucky to be able to go.

BE: Save yourselves for all the food out there!

DS: We are going to do ‘Bastille vs. Food’!

BE: You need to record that!

DS: Oh we will.

MW: So are you actually going to be in the next music video, I know that in the past you said that you didn’t want to be in any videos… I was wondering who managed to talk you into being in them?!

DS: We were trying to decide what we were going to do with the video, and up until yesterday I wasn’t going to be in it, bearing in mind we are shooting it next Friday. So yeah, I wasn’t going to be in, but now it looks as if I am! Hopefully I will be in it in a way that makes very clear my opinion of being in music videos!

BE: So you’re going to be running out of the video as quickly as you possibly can then!

BE: Finally, we saw you celebrated ‘Pompeii’ reaching number two in the singles chart in Pizza Hut, not with the buffet though I hear! I’m sure that ruined it completely!

DS: I know, imagine my disappointment!

BE: How are you going to be celebrating your number one album, which I’m pretty sure will be number one on Sunday! Are you going to be going to Pizza Express this time?!

DS: I don’t know… I don’t think we will get number one on Sunday.

BE: Oh you definitely will, I saw yesterday it’s about 6000 sales ahead of the album in number two position…

DS: We’ll see, it’s ridiculous we are even having this conversation, I’m totally in denial! But the thing that will potentially screw us over is Mother’s Day. Apparently there is a massive surge on Saturday of people buying for Mother’s Day so that will potentially mean that other albums might overtake us. But to even be in this position is totally ridiculous; but if for some crazy reason we do, I’ll probably have a nervous breakdown.

BE: Well you will be glad to know that for Mother’s Day, I bought my mum your album, so I bet other people have as well!

DS: Aww, thanks so much! I hope she likes it!

BE: I’m sure she will!

DS: I just can’t imagine people buying their mum’s an album called ‘Bad Blood’ with a cover like it has as well… but thank you!

BE: Well thanks for talking to us today and we will see you at the gig later tonight!

DS: Are you coming to the gig later then?!

BE: Yeah, of course!

DS: Wicked, see you later.

MW: Thanks Dan!

Agree or disagree?